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Serengeti National Park

Photo © mattchayman

Travel Guide Africa Tanzania Serengeti National Park

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Introduction

Zebras in the Serengeti

Zebras in the Serengeti

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Tanzania's oldest and most popular national park, and adjoining Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, Serengeti National Park is famed for its annual wildebeest migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson's gazelle join the million wildebeest trekking for fresh grazing. It is placed on the Unesco World Heritage List. It is possible to see all of the Big Five in the park, though with off-roading being illegal you will probably have to rely on binoculars to see any leopards, as they are generally hiding in the treetops.

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Geography

The southeastern area lies in the rain shadow of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area's highlands and is composed of shortgrass treeless plains with abundant small dicots. Soils are high in nutrients, overlying a shallow calcareous hardpan. A gradient of soil depth northwestward across the plains results in changes in the herbaceous community and taller grass. About 70 kilometres west, Acacia woodlands appear suddenly and stretch west to Lake Victoria and north to the Loita Plains, north of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The sixteen Acacia species vary over this range, their distribution determined by edaphic conditions and soil depth. Near Lake Victoria, flood plains have developed from ancient lakebeds.

In the far northwest, Acacia woodlands are replaced by broadleaved Terminalia-Combretum woodlands, caused by a change in geology. This area has the highest rainfall in the system and forms a refuge for the migrating ungulates at the end of the dry season.

Altitudes in the Serengeti range from 920 to 1,850 metres with mean temperatures varying from 15 to 25 °C. Although the climate is usually warm and dry, rainfall occurs in two rainy seasons: March to May, and a shorter season in October and November. Rainfall amounts vary from a low of 508 millimetres in the lee of the Ngorongoro highlands to a high of 1,200 millimetres on the shores of Lake Victoria. The highlands, which are considerably cooler than the plains and are covered by montane forest, mark the eastern border of the basin in which the Serengeti lies.

The Serengeti plain is punctuated by granite and gneiss outcroppings known as kopjes. These outcroppings are the result of volcanic activity. Kopjes provide a microhabitat for non-plains wildlife.

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Sights and Activities

Hot air balloon safaris, walking safari, picnicking, game drives, bush lunch/dinner can be arranged with hotels/tour operators. Maasai rock paintings and musical rocks. Nearby visit Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano and Lake Natron's flamingos.

Wildlife

Hippo

Hippo

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

The Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson's gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing. Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game-viewing in Africa: great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of eland, topi, kongoni, impala and Grant’s gazelle. The spectacle of predator versus prey dominates Tanzania’s greatest park. Golden-maned lion prides feast on the abundance of plain grazers. Solitary leopards haunt the acacia trees lining the Seronera River, while a high density of cheetahs prowls the southeastern plains. Almost uniquely, all three African jackal species occur here, alongside the spotted hyena and a host of more elusive small predators, ranging from the insectivorous aardwolf to the beautiful serval cat. But there is more to Serengeti than large mammals. Gaudy agama lizards and rock hyraxes scuffle around the surfaces of the park’s isolated granite koppies. A full 100 varieties of dung beetle have been recorded, as have 500-plus bird species, ranging from the outsized ostrich and bizarre secretary bird of the open grassland, to the black eagles that soar effortlessly above the Lobo Hills.

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Opening Hours

Open year-round. Best time to follow the wildebeest migration, December-July. To see predators, June-October.

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Getting There

By Train

Scheduled and charter flights from Arusha, Lake Manyara and Mwanza.

By Car

The Serengeti is commonly visited on safari from Arusha, usually in combination with Lake Manyara, Tarangire NP and/or Ngorongoro Crater.

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Sleep

There are various camps within the national park. If you are visiting during the wildebeest migration, make sure you (or your guide) knows which one(s) will be best for viewing the migration. Note that not all have electricity (or hot water), so make sure those camera batteries are charged before you go.

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This is version 8. Last edited at 13:36 on Dec 22, 15 by Utrecht. 12 articles link to this page.

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